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Barrie Colts select Hadfield with top pick in new midget draft

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

Will the name Victor Hadfield mean anything to Barrie Colts fans in a couple of ears?

No matter what, it will have some significance in Ontario Hockey League history.

The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs defenceman was the first player ever selected in the OHL's Under-18 Priority Selection Draft, as the Colts picked him with their opening choice.

“A couple of our different guys went out to see him to compare,” said Colts general manager Jason Ford. “We really liked him.

“He's an elite skater, a really good puck mover, and he went from 'A' to 'AAA' and he's got a new-found confidence as a skater and a hockey player and has the realization that he could be in for bigger and better things.”

The grandson of former NHL all-star Vic Hadfield impressed the Colts enough that they decided to use the first overall pick on the slim blueliner.

“You don't always look at bloodlines, but it certainly wouldn't hurt the kid,” said Ford of the Hadfield connection. “It won't draw us to him over other kids in that draft, but obviously they're a good hockey family.

“His family, when we met them, seemed like good, genuine people, and the kid is realizing that he has the ability to take his game to a different level,” Ford added. “From all accounts, he's looking forward to the rookie camp and showing what he can do.”

This inaugural draft, which went four rounds (or five for any team that selected a goaltender) is a lot about finding guys that may not have hit their potential yet.

“I think the midget draft is partly about taking the player you think is the best at the time, and part of it is identifying who might be that diamond in the rough that's on the upswing,” Ford said. “Maybe it doesn't happen right away, but they come in in a year or two and it really happens for them.

“Some guys that have been mentioned, like (former Colts forward Joseph) Blandisi, had his best year by far in his overage year,” added Ford of the centre who would go on to play for the New Jersey Devils a season later. “It took him a few years to go through the process to really make his mark in the league.

“If you can find a guy like that out of this draft, it's obviously going to be immensely helpful for the organization going forward.”

While first-round picks in the OHL's Priority Selection Draft, which sees teams grab the best minor midget players in the province and some select states, are a virtual lock to make their new club, the ones taken in this new process are seen as guys that might be able to help a squad down the road.

As a result, more emphasis is put on the 15-round event, from which this season the Colts took the likes of Ryan Suzuki, Nate Allensen and others.

“The bulk of our scouting goes towards the OHL Priority Selection Draft, as it does with most teams,” Ford said. “We had heard after Christmas that this was probably going to happen, and the major midgets are still having their championships go on now.”

Just one player, goaltender Pierce Charleson, was selected from the Colts midget 'AAA' team, and he went to Barrie with the first pick in the second round.

“He's intriguing,” Ford said. “Last year, he played for that York-Simcoe team that won just about everything. So he played in a lot of big games and he's got a big frame.

“We'll work with him and hopefully, over time, he can improve.”

Barrie's remaining picks were forwards Josiah Degazon and Massimo Petricca from the Mississauga Rebels (in the third and fourth rounds, respectively) and defenceman Jacob Breckles of the Richmond Hill Coyotes.

With the draft decreasing to two rounds next season, Ford still believes that this new system will make midget 'AAA' more competitive, with players sticking around to try and get drafted.

“Maybe now, instead of playing junior in a lesser role, they'll play midget in a larger role,” Ford said. “(Former Colts centre) Erik Bradford played for the Mississauga Rebels (in midget 'AAA') and then went on to have a good career.

“At the end of the day, you've got to get a good list and identify guys so that you can pick guys that can have a good chance.”

All five draft picks are expected to be at the Colts development camp, taking place on April 22-23, at which there will be a scrimmage, free and open to the public, happening at the Barrie Molson Centre on Sunday, April 23 at 10:30 a.m.

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